Owen Metsileng and Nobulumko Mngxekeza in Brett Bailey’s Macbeth. Photo by Nicky Newman, courtesy of FringeArts.
Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth has been fertile ground for artists across disciplines for centuries, inspiring a wide range of stage, screen, and musical interpretations. On September 24-25, a new adaptation set in the Democratic Republic of Congo will make its Philadelphia debut, as FringeArts presents South African theater artist Brett Bailey and his performance group Third World Bunfight. Tickets are available online.>>
Presented in collaboration with Opera Philadelphia, Bailey's interpretation of Verdi's opera, Macbeth, features a South African cast and examines post-colonial central Africa as it introduces audiences to Congolese warlord General Macbeth and his ambitious wife, who murder the king and wreak havoc in the war-torn landscape of multinational corporations and militias.
Bailey says his initial intention in reimagining this classic work was to "give the widest impression of the conflict in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo through the opera." While devising the work, however, he found he had to re-think his approach. "I felt like I was trying to squeeze the ugly sister's foot into a very tiny glass slipper," he says. "I resolved to simply set the tale within the conflict, and to allow historical and contemporary allusions to seep into the work."
The result is an intimate and provocative look at the protagonists' relationships to power. "Machiavellian power matches are forever playing out around us," Bailey explains. "We are fascinated by them, and all too often the victims of them. We want to understand what drives such tyrants, what goes on in their minds, and with a schadenfreude steeped in the illusion that the universe has some sort of underlying karmic pattern, we revel in their sticky fates: if only it always ended like that."